My grocery shopping process actually starts when I get home from the store and after I’ve put everything away. I get out a new grocery list form (Franklin Covey Menu Planner or sometimes my own form – see download below) and put it on the refrigerator. I immediately go ahead and start filling it out. I include things like:
- Items I buy every week
- Items I know I’ll need next week
- Items I wasn’t able to get today
- Items I forgot to get today
As the week progresses, I add to the list as I notice things we need. I try to always have a back-up in the pantry for things we use often, like baggies, peanut butter, jelly, etc. So when I open a new container, I put that item on the list. Sometimes I’m super efficient and I’ll take a look in the cabinets and pantry and guess at what I’ll need the next week and go ahead and put it on the list.
My goal is to prepare my grocery list the day before I go grocery shopping but that doesn’t always happen. Lately I’ve been finishing the list right before I go to the store. I hate doing it that way but that’s the way it is right now. The biggest problem with doing it at the last minute is that it doesn’t give me time to discover items I forgot to put on the list. If I make the list the day before, I put it back on the refrigerator until grocery store day and I might think of a couple more items before I go. But it is what it is.
The night before I go, I ask my husband if there’s anything he needs. He nearly always says, “the usual”.
Making my list is a two-step process. First I go through my cabinets and pantry and add anything I know I need. Like salmon, tuna, milk, eggs, produce. I buy those every week. If I normally buy something every week but this week I don’t need it, I’ll go ahead and put on my list: No eggs. That way I know I didn’t forget – I don’t need eggs. I write down all the staples.
Then I pull out my cookbooks and magazines and start looking for new recipes. I used to pull recipes from Pinterest or other blogs but I don’t do that anymore. Since I want to share the recipes with you, I want them to be recipes you haven’t already tried or seen. I figure I’m safer going with the magazines and cookbooks.
I usually plan 5 meals – usually just dinner. Sometimes we eat all those; sometimes we don’t. It’s just my husband and I but I frequently cook for others, too. I don’t always know how many will be at dinner. And I don’t have any problem rearranging my plan. I did that several times this past week. You have to be flexible or you’ll go crazy!
When I had more time, I planned my meals by category: Mexican, pasta, meat, soup/stew, Italian, etc. Now that I’m more time challenged, I plan based on what’s going on. I still try to have plenty of variety, though. But I pull out my menu and look at what’s going on each day and then decide on a meal. It doesn’t make sense to plan a labor intensive meal if I’m not going to have time to cook. And on the days I have more time, I want to cook more. So I plan based on my schedule and who will be eating with us.
I try to make four or five new recipes every week – at least. I publish 3 recipes a week on the blog so I need to try at least that many. More is better because not all recipes are blog worthy. If we don’t love it, I don’t share it.
This is the menu plan for the week. I didn’t put anything on Monday because I had already planned 5 meals and I figured we’d end up eating leftovers or I’d make one of the recipes we missed. We rarely need more than 5 meals.
After the meals are planned and the ingredients listed, I add everything up (I put prices next to the items as I put them on the list). My current budget is $175 a week so if it’s more than that, I have to figure out what I can skip. If I can’t skip anything, I try to find things that are cheaper than my estimate or maybe buy a smaller size. Last week my list added up to $200. But I couldn’t skip anything. So I decided I’d make it work. I went to Wal-mart and was really careful. When I finished, it was $173.10. Whew! I always inflate the prices a little to account for tax and mistakes.
Then I head to the store. I don’t shop at multiple stores. I used to do that when the kids were little – I went to Wal-mart (not a grocery at that time) for everything I could get there and then picked up the rest at the grocery store. When Wal-mart started selling groceries, I did all my shopping there. In recent years I’ve shopped at Wal-mart, Price Chopper and/or HyVee. Lately, with a smaller budget, I’ve been finding myself at Wal-mart often.
I shop once a week and 99% of the time the same day every week. I was at HyVee last week on a Tuesday (my new day) and the meat guy said: “It’s not Wednesday”. See – they know when I shop! I’ve been going on Wednesday for a long time but my schedule changed and I had to switch to Tuesday. I’d prefer to go on Thursday but that doesn’t work either. You have to shop on the day that fits your schedule. But planning is a lot easier if you go the same day every week.
I do not use coupons or shop the sales. I try, when I can, to allow extra money in my budget so I can stock up on great sales. But that doesn’t happen very often. I try hard to shop smart. I don’t mind buying off brands – or at least trying them.
I take my list with me to the store and mark things off as I buy them. I’m pretty good about knowing where everything is so I don’t have to backtrack. And I’m also good at sticking with the list – especially if I’m paying with cash! It’s amazing the difference that one little step makes.
Also on grocery store day I fill the car with gas. The gas station is on the way so I fill it up. I usually only have to every other week. But having a set day to do it keeps it convenient for me and keeps me from running out of gas or having to make an emergency stop at an inconvenient time. My goal is to keep my tank no less than half full. My dad always said: “It runs just as well off the top half.”
After shopping I head home and unload it all. I’m really lucky in that I park in the garage and the garage is right off the kitchen with only three steps to get in. I LOVE that! This is the best arrangement I’ve ever had and I’ve definitely gotten spoiled.
Once the food is put away, I usually sit for a few minutes and relax. Grocery shopping is hard work! And then start it all over again!
What’s your grocery shopping routine? Do you shop weekly, every other week or whenever you run out of food? And please let me know if you have questions about my routine.